Alistair Darling's satellite tracking road toll plans - another Big Brother surveillance system

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Just to emphasise how inept and stupid the Home Officee's vague plans for Global Positioning Satellite tracking of paedophiles and wife batterers is, particularly the vain hope of enforcing "no go zones", one only has to look at the massively complicated and expensive technology that will be required for Transport Secretary Alistair Darling's plans for Road Tolls.

The Systems Architecture for this Road Toll plan (.pdf) is hugely complicated and expensive. Even with Automatic Number Plate Recognition and On Board Units in your car which respond to either roadside microwave beacons or GPS satellite signals, there is no way to guarantee the ability to track a vehicle accurately to the nearest road junction.

This puts into perspective just how much more technologically difficult would be the task of preventing paedophiles from visiting a local primary school or a wife batterer from hanging around his estranged wife and family home, as per the Home Office's vague and woolly plans for mobile electronic tagging of offenders.

The Department of Transport, or at least its advisors Delloitte, unlike the Home Office, do actually seem to have heard of the Human Rights Act and the Data protection Act. Unfortunately, their Annex G, Compliance, Enforcement
and Privacy
(.pdf) seem to be planning the usual ploy of using Primary Legislation to circumvent the privacy protections of the HRA or the DPA.

Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the planting of a tracking device in your car requires the authorisation of a senior police officier, and is only to be contemplated when there is reasonable evidence that you might be involved in serious crime i.e. a crime for which you might expect a prison sentence of over 3 years for a first offence if you are convicted.

Alistair Darling is planning to put the entire UK road network and 30 million vehicles under an equivalent surveillance system, the likes of which the enemies of democracy would be delighted with.

If each On Board Unit toll unit contains the equivalent of a mobile phone, this will more than double the number of mobile phone handset devices attaching to the network, which will bring it grinding to a halt, unless billions of pounds of infrastructure upgrades are paid for by, presumably, the tax payer. This would constitute either an illegal subsidy or unfair competition under European Union competition rules. The number of controversial mobile phone masts dotted around the country would also have to be increased, with a detrimental effect on the visual environment and and increase in health fears amongst local communities (whether justified or not, the fears remain).

This expensive and intrusive high tech surveillance is not necessary for road pricing schemes, as is shown by the Swiss tachograph system.


I beleive the German plan to track all lorries has been a total disaster. I think it may have been abandoned just before it was due to be implemented. Ha, Ha, Ha!

Any more info on this? I wonder what 'technological problems' they came up againt.

According to "Annex C Charging Technologies and Existing Schemes" of the Department of Transport's Feasability Study,

"C.68 The German lorry charging scheme was originally scheduled to go live in August 2003 but has been delayed. It is now expected to become operational in January 2005 and in a more
advanced form in January 2006."

They have been working on this since 2001 at a cost of at least 730 million Euros (over ?500 million) and this is *only* for HGVs and *only* on motorways.

c.f. our previous posting and comment

which quotes an article on Risks Digest:

"For this purpose, lots of new masts were erected (as if we don't already have enough of this nonsense in Germany), and a beta test was arranged. Shipping companies complained that they were charged toll, although they were using the non-toll road that ran near a toll road. [GPS tolerance miscalculated? Maybe the German mapmakers made some mistakes?]. Others reported happily that they were charged no toll, although they were using a toll road. Some truckers reported the OBU busting its circuit breakers when the ignition in the truck was started."

Anyone have any ideas on jamming this c**p.
The more I think on all this Big Brother stuff, the more angry I become.
Would a neutron device do the job???

You have access to a *portable* neutron source ? Like in the film "Ghostbusters" ? 8-)

Jamming weak satellite signals is not too difficult.

Spoofing or replaying the signals locally so that the GPS tag believes it is in a different location, to defraud the toll systems or to allow criminals to evade electronic tagging "no go zone" restrictions, will become as least as big a business as the sale of cable and satellite tv decoders, radar speed trap detectors etc, all of which are more complicated bits of electronics, if Darling's plans ever get implemented.

I wonder how long it will take for someone to produce a jamming device like with gsm mobile phones...a few of these located at strategic points will render the gsm network useless, especially if high power was used.

the neutron bomb was only a smile :-)
there is the possibility of the government increasing the power of the gsm network on the if your tooth filling starts to get warm...BEWARE.

Jamming large parts of the GSM network could be seen as a terrorist attack

"(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system."

It would of course, be very easy to track down the jamming equipment.

More subtle protocol based attacks are possible, however.

The recent Birmingham Hodge Hill by election was quite heavily influenced by the debate and health fears regarding Mobile Phone Masts - raising the power of GSM or 3G would increase this sensitive "Middle England" political opposition, so that it unlikely, at least before the General Election.

if the current power levels on gsm masts were upped, this would allow the tagging to be effective even in the inner cities.One should be on the look out for any signs of any proposed increases in power levels.
I really dont know what they are currently, but even a 20% increase would possibly ensure that most of the shadows are covered.

Eeven a change in frequency, would allow for deeper penetration into the shadow areas.
Either way, they seem determined to use this technology and if they go ahead with it in september, then they must of done trials some time back and are ironing out the creases.

Not convinced.

The permitted power levels are set by regulation.

The networks would have to move (expensive, need to re-apply for planning permission etc.) all their existing masts if they did that. The whole point of GSM cells is that they do not share or conflict with the frequencies being used by the neighbouring cells (typically four to six neigbours) - 25 million GSM handsets do not use 25 million different frequencies, only about 256 "colours". If you boost the signal strength of the base station masts, then they start to conflict with the cells beyond the immediate neighbours, causing chaos.

You cannot boost the GSM power of the handsets or tagging devices by 20% (the connection is bi-directional), so the blackspots caused by metallised windows, aluminium backed thermal insulation, or rising damp walls etc will still occur.

Most handsets reduce their power transmiissions when they can, in order to save battery life - which why rural users, with cells up to 35 km in diameter have to recharge more frequently than urban ones, where the cells are smaller.

It is an economic decision as to how many blackspots a network tolerates - if there is enough potential revenue, then they will install micro cell transmitters e.g. in airports or railway stations, but almost certainly not in council estates etc.

There are transient blackspots as well e.g. when there is a traffic jam, all the motorists start using their phones, and any other local users simply cannot connect to the busy cell.

Most of the networks, and indeed some of the protocols, also prioritise voice traffic over data traffic, so again, a busy voice cell as above squeezes out any data trafic which is what a tagging or road tolling system would use.

If someone is willing to pay for extra infrastructure (not me) then it is possible to cover the whole country for tagging or tolling purposes, but not with the present infrastructure which is tuned to existing voice, SMS and data uses.

the logistics would be enormous, but not impossible.We should not under estimate how quicky bills can be passed through the commons to give them the authority to make the changes needed.
off on a tangent though,
does anyone have some pics or no where i can find pics on what the millimeter scanners, used at airports actually see.


If it is all built on civilian GPS, the technology is subvertible.

1. there is no 'signature' on the signal, so you can spoof it. The Risks digest records incidents of this being done by governments, but it is probably not that hard to do. Once you spoof it, you can devalue the worth. What happens if the "pay zones" move around all the time?

2. None of the satellites, "The constellation", go above 54 degrees north or south. So from the lake district north, the satellites are all to the south, apart from the ones on the other side of the planet poking north. If you are driving down a city with a line of buildings to the south, you may not get a fix. All the scottish cities may suffer from this.

3. GPS has jitters anyway. It is not as bad as when it was degraded by the US government, but it still varies due to unexpected ionospheric conditions (solar storms expand the atmosphere, changing signal propagation and potentially slowing satellite orbits slightly). An incident around 1990 involving a drilling ship with GPS-controlled location is an example of this (see ACM risks digest, as usual).

4. Car owners, have incentives to subvert the system. This is not a GPS navigation system that benefits you -this is a tax-in-the-car. So the sat system would need to be backed up by a vast network of cameras scanning all cars and correlating that with later billing information.

As a software engineer, I find vast schemes like this fascinating in their doomed extravagance. Simple demos in controlled circumstances do not map into systems that resist malicious attacks. Even the London charging system is vulnerable to forged plates and foreign vehicles. Presumably that is why you now need both vehicle ownership proof *and photo ID* to get a number plate made up.

Time to buy cars from abroad. Hey, maybe even time to get irish citizenship by way of a grandparent.

I had a look at the website, but did not see anything that was usuable.The images were too small.There are flaws everywhere and I dabble a lot into vb and c++.
My work is R&D into antennas for vehicles incl sat,gps,gsm,bluetooth etc etc.

I am writing in response to Black Boxs In Cars,. I find this very appealing I welcome the opportunity to discuss this in more detail would be available for through any means possible at anytime.

Bring the steet lights online change the heads of the lamps so they
can SCAN AND SHED SUM LIGHT fit black boxes into cars 3 quarters of
the box will be ssh hub the other quarter will be for the M.O.T TESTER HE/SHE WILL
HAVE a hand held computer to interact with black box NOW YOU HAVE
Electronic driving card that slips into a small box under the dash
board just like when you put your floopy disk into your MUM no no no
INTO YOUR COMPUTER the small box will be connected to the BLACK BOX
NO NO YOUR car you slip your SUPREME
ELECTRONIC DRIVING CARD in the slot you then eye ball finger no no no
you finger print now IGNITION ON ITS go go go YOU will have a
microchip windscreen that will be connected to the black box
,,,,,,,now part of you windoz screen is a monitor as you drive under
the lamps and it works out that you are speeding a popup window an the
left hand side or your cars windoz screen will advise you to slow down
if you ignore it a policetraffic division will popup and he/she will
tell YOU TO SLOW DOWN if you ignore you will be awarded with 2 ponts
LINE END OFF ..............

Are YOU unemployed would you like to take part in drive in movie
where it gets projected on to the windscreen inside of car with black
box hook up interact with other cars in complex eat and drink as
much as you like with 16 year olds with no knickers on on
roller-skates severing up the food drinks to the cars max stay for
the cars 20 hours six thousand cars it holds its just like drive in
big mac price for the cars is 45 Pounds per car cheep day night out sound
cums out of your car speakers profit TWO hundred and seventy thousand
a day for more details phone 07092161338

Any screen or even "head up display" constitutes a "driving without due care and attention" criminal offence:

"A Coventry student was stopped by police as he drove his car through the city centre while watching a TV mounted on his dashboard"

Some of the existing road toll technology has infra-red connectivity for parking wardens etc. to check On Board Units through the glass of the windscreen.

6000 x ?45 = ?270,000 *turnover* not PROFIT,

unless you somehow have no expenses for the film, venue hire, projectors, "black boxes", unlimited food and drink, and the alleged "16 year olds with no knickers on on roller-skates severing up the food drinks to the cars"

The Inland Revenue and Her Majesty's Customs and Excise will also want their cut of the "profits" as well.

Is there any way that you can stop the jammer being located? For example, by creating a more or less uniform field by using several jammers?

Does anyone else think that the best way to sabotage this would be to even jam the setups in public when they test each setup? It would delay the project massively.

What "jammer" ? A GPS or even a GSM "jammer" could easily be construed as a something which might fall under section 57 of the Terrorism Acr "Possession for terrorist purpose"

Alternatively, the new Fraud Bill going through parliament will make it an offence to posses or to offer for sale anything that has been designed or adapted for the purposes of fraud (an enormously wide power, at the discretion of non-technical people )

This would easlily cover the low powered GPS signal replay devices I was alluding to earlier.

Gps recieving 'Puck' blocked by Ford heated windscreen wires. Technicians spent ages trying to discover what was wrong!
Food for thought.


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This United Kingdom based blog attempts to draw public attention to, and comments on, some of the current trends in ever cheaper and more widespread surveillance technology being deployed to satisfy the rapacious demand by state and corporate bureaucracies and criminals for your private details, and the technological ignorance of our politicians and civil servants who frame our legal systems.

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Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia


Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at

RIPA Consultations

RIPA Part III consultation blog - Government access to Encrypted Information and Encryption Keys.

RIPA Part I Chapter II consultation blog - Government access and disclosure of Communications Traffic Data

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Follow Spy Blog on Twitter

For those of you who find it convenient, there is now a Twitter feed to alert you to new Spy Blog postings.

Please bear in mind the many recent, serious security vulnerabilities which have compromised the Twitter infrastructure and many user accounts, and Twitter's inevitable plans to make money out of you somehow, probably by selling your Communications Traffic Data to commercial and government interests.

Recent Comments

  • Eddie: Gps recieving 'Puck' blocked by Ford heated windscreen wires. Technicians read more
  • wtwu: What "jammer" ? A GPS or even a GSM "jammer" read more
  • Chris: Is there any way that you can stop the jammer read more
  • wtwu: Any screen or even "head up display" constitutes a "driving read more
  • Mark Patrick Norris: I am writing in response to Black Boxs In Cars,. read more
  • john: I had a look at the website, but did not read more
  • Steve Loughran: If it is all built on civilian GPS, the technology read more
  • john: the logistics would be enormous, but not impossible.We should not read more
  • wtwu: Not convinced. The permitted power levels are set by regulation. read more
  • john: if the current power levels on gsm masts were upped, read more


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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

intelligence_gov_uk_150.gif - Cabinet Office hosted portal website to various UK Intelligence Agencies and UK Government intelligence committees and Commissioners etc.

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protestClimate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

syf_logo_120.gif Secure Your Ferliliser logo
Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

cpni_logo_150.gif Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure
Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

SIS MI6 careers_logo_sis.gif
Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

Serious Organised Crime Agency - have cut themselves off from direct contact with the public and businesses - no phone - no email

Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

netcu_logo_150.gif National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit
National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit - keeps a watch on animal extremists, genetically modified crop protesters, peace protesters etc.
(some people think that the word salad of acronyms means that NETCU is a spoof website)

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

FreeFarid_150.jpg - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

Amnesty International's campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV


I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !


Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign


Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."


Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme